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Animal Investigators: How the World's First Wildlife Forensics Lab Is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species Hardcover – April 7, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Few people realize that animal parts trafficking represents a large threat to the global ecosystem; writer and natural resource management expert Neme is one of them. Trading in rare goods highly prized by many cultures, but lacking in human victims, the worldwide animal parts market remains largely invisible, and thus completely underestimated, except in the underfunded U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that's tasked with stopping it. In this engrossing look at the CSI of the animal world, Neme opens readers' eyes through three case studies: walrus tusk hunting in Alaska, an investigation that leads into serious debate over issues of native sovereignty and subsistence hunting; bears poached for their gall bladders, a cure-all in Chinese medicine; and rare Amazonian birds killed for their feathers. Explaining the science behind the work, Neme reveals concrete clues and fascinating sidelights that should keep fans of police procedurals hooked, while also focusing on cultural issues and the challenges of global regulation. Readers interested in true crime, animal rights or television's Law and Order will be fascinated, educated, and perhaps inspired to spread the word.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A fantastic, exciting and revealing read! Neme takes us deep into the dark world of wildlife exploitation with a thrill level and suspense rivaling any episode of CSI, with one exception, Animal Investigators is far from fiction, as these genuine and mysterious crimes against nature are resolved by crafty and determined experts in the fields of wildlife conservation, law enforcement, and management." -- Jeff Corwin, wildlife biologist, producer, and host
"The greatest threat to the remaining wildlife in African rainforests is the illegal bushmeat trade - the murder of wild animals not to feed starving people but to feed the urban elite. Animal Investigators tells an amazing story about concerned scientists and forensic teams working to solve the murder mysteries that all too often are overlooked: the poaching and smuggling of endangered species." -- Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder - the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace
"The moral case against wildlife trafficking has been made already. Animal Investigators is a stimulating account of what it takes to make the forensic case against wildlife and environmental crime. A new arsenal of techniques for thwarting the billion dollar global trade in illegal animal parts is emerging, just in time for the world's endangered wildlife species." -- Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States
"Think CSI: Wilderness. Laurel Neme's book gives us a new set of heroes, in the labs of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and reminds us of one of the uglier set of villains on the planet, the traffickers in wildlife." -- William McKibben, author of Deep Economy and The End of Nature
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It is within this context that Laurel Neme's Animal Investigators provides a close-up account of how the international trade in endangered species is monitored and enforced. Focusing on three key case studies of walrus poaching in Alaska, the trade in bear bile across Asia and exotic bird feathers from Brazil, Neme documents the challenges of animal forensics. Writing with clarity and investigative zeal, she follows the path from crime scene to labs to court rooms. At times her narrative reads like a crime novel and at others like a biology lesson. Yet this synthesis of styles and themes is so essential in capturing the gravity of crimes against our fellow organisms worldwide.
Unlike most international environmental narratives, in this one, the United States comes out particularly positive. Not only was the US a founding signatory to CITES, but it also hosts one of the key animal forensic labs that investigates over 30,000 species of animal crime victims. The staff of the Clark R Bavin U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory are key protagonists in the book. However, Neme also acknowledges the heroic efforts by law enforcement officials worldwide, and particularly in Brazil, in preventing the trade in these species. It is no wonder that she has been invited to present her findings before Interpol officials on the one hand, while receiving cover endorsements from scientists such as Jane Goodall and Richard Leakey on the other.
Given the range of her investigative coverage and her strong roots as a social scientist, one may have expected more in terms of policy recommendations for dealing with what she calls the "trifecta of low risk, weak penalties and high profits" that continue to hamper further progress in this field. She could have also developed the case for how terrorist financing has been linked to trade in endangered species (initially mentioned in the book). Finally, the book could have addressed the question of cultural transition and environmental education to counter these practices. Despite these minor deficiencies, Animal Investigators is a much needed, readable and informative account of a little-known underworld of cruel commerce, and the courageous scientists and law enforcement officials whose work deserves recognition.
This book is incredibly interesting and easily approachable for the general reader. Those with an interest in wildlife crime, forensics, or even if you enjoy a good mystery, this book will suit you well.